Central Japan region put under virus emergency

TOKYO (AP) – A governor in central Japan announced a state of emergency yesterday due to rising virus cases and asked businesses and people to curb their activities, especially during an upcoming holiday.

Aichi prefecture has been seeing more than 100 new infections reported daily since mid-July after an extended period of zero new daily cases.

The prefecture includes the major city of Nagoya and the headquarters of Toyota Motor Corp, Japan’s top automaker.

Governor Hideaki Ohmura told reporters businesses are being asked to close altogether or close early, and people are being asked to stay home at night, to prevent infections from spreading.

The requests continue through August 24, a period that coincides with Japanese Obon holidays, when schools and many companies close.

Tourists in traditional Japanese kimonos walk in Asakusa district in Tokyo. In Japan, coronavirus outbreaks spread across the country with increasing travel during summer holidays. PHOTO: AP

“Please avoid non-essential activity during the Obon holidays,” Ohmura said, asking people not to dine out in big crowds or go out partying. “The situation we are in is very serious.” About 70 per cent of the recent cases were people in their 30s, and most were showing no or mild symptoms, but Ohmura said worries were growing about more vulnerable people getting sick.

Japan has not had a lockdown. The voluntary emergency measures put in place in April, asking for social distancing to be used and businesses to close, were gradually lifted.

The national government’s actions have been called inadequate, pushing economic growth at the risk of human life, such as the ‘GoTo’ campaign, which encourages domestic travel with government-backed discounts.

Last week, the southwestern island prefecture of Okinawa also declared its own local emergency. Other regional governments may take similar action.

Japan has so far nearly 42,700 coronavirus cases and about 1,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University tally based on official figures.